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Just months before his second term ended, President Bush had another important decision to make. The economic downturn hit, and while he says he'd noticed problems with some financial institutions, President Bush says he felt blindsided.
"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had an implicit government guarantee and were beginning to write a lot of risky mortgages and make a lot of risky investments," he says. "I saw that coming and asked Congress to reform it, which they would not do. ... But, no, we didn't see the complete financial meltdown."
President Bush says he was advised to do something drastic or else the country would head toward a depression. In 2008, he signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, a $700 billion bailout of the financial services industry.
"I didn't want to be a president overseeing a depression," he says. "I didn't want to see our people hurt, and yet the solution was to take your money and give it to Wall Street. The people who, I thought, in some measure, caused the meltdown in the first place."
President Bush says this was a tough call, but he believes it was necessary. "I can't prove it to you. All I can tell you is we didn't have a depression," he says. "I believe it helped save the country. I really do."